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Euro5 and 6 could spell the end for small diesels

Date: 26 June 2008   |   Author: Richard Davies

The stringent emission standards anticipated for Euro5 and Euro6 could end the move to diesel-powered supermini and lower medium sector cars.

Andrew Fraser, Ford's gasoline powertrain development manager, predicts a return to petrol engines for these sectors as the only way to meet the conflicting requirements of reducing CO2 emissions as well as particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

Fraser, speaking at The Sexy Green Car Show in Cornwall, said the diesel is a "fantastically efficient unit and will continue to offer the best fuel economy". But he added that the cost of meeting the tough Euro5 and Euro6 standards will prove uneconomic for small- and medium-sized diesels.

Emissions regulations are set to tighten across the board. In 2012, the EU will impose a 'fleet average' of 130g/km CO2 on manufacturers, with punitive fines for failing to comply. Euro5 standards come into force from 2011 and will cut soot, or particulate, emissions to 5mg/km (the Euro4 limit is 25mg/km) effectively requiring all diesels to be fitted with particulate filters. NOx emissions limits will be cut 80% (down to 180mg/km from the current 250mg/km). Euro6, expected in 2015, further reduces NOx emissions to 80mg/km.

Diesels in the supermini and lower-medium sectors have led the drive to reduce CO2 emissions. So paradoxically, the particulate and NOx standards set by Euro5 and 6 could have a counter-productive effect on CO2 emissions. Ford sees the shift to small, efficient petrol engines in these sectors, combined with incremental improvements in engine design and weight saving, as the best way to satisfy both requirements affordably.

Evidence of this shift will emerge next year with the US launch of the first of Ford's new EcoBoost engines. These are low displacement, direct injection, turbocharged petrol engines that Fraser says will combine the free-revving performance drivers associate with petrol with much lower CO2 emissions. A European launch will follow.